Columbus Day

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus set foot on an Island in the Bahamas he named San Salvador, which means Christ the Savior! The article below gives a very good Catholic perspective on why Columbus wanted, and Queen Isabella financed his expedition to the New World…it was to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith!

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The Catholic Spirit of Christopher Columbus

Written by Ben Broussard
Created: 31 August 2012
www.tfp.org/tfp-home/focus-on-history/the-catholic-spirit-of-christopher-columbus.html

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The Catholic Spirit of Cristopher Columbus

As the sun set, the Salve Regina hymn rang out across the Atlantic. Ninety men stood on the decks of three boats, led in prayer by Christopher Columbus, the foreign captain they had come to trust. They had kept the same ritual of evening prayers since they left Spain months ago, but tonight was different. Tomorrow would be the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, Spain’s great patroness. Columbus had promised his men that had they not spotted land by her feast day, he would order the ships to turn back, a promise he intended to keep. He knew Our Lady would not abandon the enterprise he had worked so hard to bring about. The signs that they were near land were increasing by the day.

As Columbus climbed the steps to his cabin, his gaze fell instinctively to the western horizon. Off in the distance, he caught sight of a light, like a candle rising and falling on the waves. Quickly, he called another man, who confirmed the sighting. The crews on all three ships were alerted, each man was on deck, peering out for signs of land nearby. At 2 a.m., the cry came out, “Tierra!” Land! The excitement of the crew was such that they hardly noticed the many hours it took to navigate the treacherous reef that surrounded their new destination. As Columbus knelt on the beach to give thanks, the following prayer rose from his lips:

“O Lord, eternal and omnipotent God, Thou hast, by Thy holy word, created the heavens, the earth, and the sea; blessed and glorified be Thy name; praised be Thy majesty, who hast deigned that, by means of Thy unworthy servant, Thy sacred name should be acknowledged and made known in this new quarter of the world.”1

San Salvador

The above prayer, recited in Latin and the first spoken in the Americas, was followed by the chanting of the Credo, the Te Deum, and many other prayers in thanksgiving. As the banners were unfurled, the admiral solemnly proclaimed, “In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ…” He proceeded to claim the new land for his sovereigns, but not before first claiming it for his Divine Master, giving it the name San Salvador (Holy Savior).

The details in the above account of the first landfall of Europeans in the Americas are rather unknown in modern times. Historians have typically shied away from the Catholic aspects of Columbus’ journeys, either making passing mention or ignoring them entirely. Yet a reading of the writings of Columbus himself, along with the testimonies of his contemporaries, shows that the Catholic spirit permeated all aspects of life and was central to the mission of exploration.

While a detailed retelling of the events of 1492 and afterward is far beyond the scope of this article, we will examine the Catholic inspirations for the discovery, which are essential to understanding Columbus himself. Contrary to the opinion of many modern historians, and far from being a minor aberration, Columbus’ militant Catholic faith was the source of his greatness and influenced his every action.

Catholic Piety

All evidence shows Columbus was a man of deep devotion who took his faith extremely seriously. One of his contemporaries, Bartolome de las Casas, described him as a man of righteousness and deep piety:

“He observed the fasts of the church most faithfully, confessed and made communion often, read the Divine Office like a churchman, hated blasphemy and profane swearing, and was most devoted to Our Lady and to the seraphic father St. Francis. . .”2

These two devotions had many manifestations. The full name of Columbus’ flagship on the first voyage was Santa Maria de la Inmaculada Concepción (Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception). During the return of the first voyage, when the ships were in danger of sinking, Columbus and his men vowed a pilgrimage to the first Marian church they came to, which they fulfilled in the Azores two weeks later. Upon his return to Spain, Columbus made a pilgrimage to the monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura as a solemn act of thanksgiving.

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As a Third Order Franciscan, Columbus was often seen wearing the Franciscan habit.

As a Third Order Franciscan, Columbus was often seen wearing the Franciscan habit, particularly when in the presence of clergy or nobility. His close personal association with the Franciscans was instrumental in securing contacts in the royal court, and provided much needed encouragement when it seemed the enterprise would never get the support it required. His son Diego remained in the care of the Franciscans at the monastery of La Rabida near Palos during the first voyage, where the friars took charge of his education. Upon his return to Spain, Columbus spent the summer of 1493 at La Rabida, preparing spiritually for the second voyage later that year.

After Columbus’ death, his second son Fernando would write of his father’s piety:

“In matters of religion he was so strict that for fasting and saying all the canonical offices he might have been taken for a member of a religious order. And when he had to write anything, he would not try the pen without first writing these words, ‘Jesus cum Maria sit nobis in via.’”3

This inscription is found in the majority of Columbus’ letters still extant. The literal meaning, “May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way” is a fitting prayer for an explorer, and could rightly be considered his motto.

Missionary Zeal

Scholars have been quick to point to the influence of Marco Polo’s Book of the Marvels of the World upon Columbus and his contemporaries, and rightly so. Yet the chapter which most influenced Columbus himself was the introduction. In it, we read of Polo’s father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo Polo, travelling to the Orient while Marco was still an infant. Their extensive travels eventually put them into contact with Kublai Khan, referred to in the book as the Great Khan. The Great Khan questioned them about life in Western Europe and the Catholic Faith, in which he took an interest. Upon their departure, he entrusted them with a letter to the Pope requesting 100 missionaries to instruct his kingdom in the Catholic faith, along with oil from the lamp at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. On the return of the Polos to the West in 1268, they discovered Pope Clement IV had died, and the long interregnum which followed prevented the Khan’s requests from being fulfilled.4

In his petitions to Ferdinand and Isabella over a period of 7 years, it was Columbus’ desire to fulfill the Great Khan’s request which finally persuaded the sovereigns to approve the journey. Aboard his flagship was a letter to the Great Khan from the king and queen, and Columbus went to great lengths in order to deliver it. In the prologue to the report on the first voyage, Columbus directly addresses this evangelistic mission:

“I had given [a report] to Your Highnesses about the lands of India and about a prince who is called ‘Grand Khan,’. . .how he had sent to Rome to ask for men learned in our Holy Faith in order that they might instruct him in it, yet the Holy Father had never granted his request, and thus so many people were lost, falling into idolatry and accepting false and harmful religions; and Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes, lovers and promoters of the Holy Christian Faith. . . thought of sending me, Cristobal Colon. . . to see how their conversion to our Holy Faith might be undertaken.”5

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“He was extremely zealous for the honor and glory of God; he deeply yearned for
the evangelization of these peoples and for the planting and flourishing everywhere
of people’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

Yet the mission to complete the Khan’s request for missionaries was but one aspect of Columbus’ desire to spread the Gospel. As Bartolome de las Casas wrote,

“He was extremely zealous for the honor and glory of God; he deeply yearned for the evangelization of these peoples and for the planting and flourishing everywhere of people’s faith in Jesus Christ.”6 Upon his first encounter with the natives on San Salvador, Columbus concludes, “I recognized that they were people who would be better freed [from error] and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force.”7

On six separate occasions, Columbus wrote to the Holy Father requesting missionaries be sent to the recently discovered islands, a request which was fulfilled. On January 6, 1494, the Feast of the Epiphany, the first Mass in the Americas was offered by a Benedictine who had accompanied the second voyage.

Five centuries after the fact, American Jesuit Fr. John Hardon would remark,

“It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America. It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”8

Crusader Spirit

A question arises from the modern reader: “What about the quest for gold?” As Columbus makes clear in his log, the finding of gold, spices, and other valuables is central to his mission, but not for the reason most are taught.

On December 26, 1492, Columbus had established a makeshift settlement named La Navidad on the north end of the island of Hispaniola from the wreckage of the Santa Maria, run aground on a reef. Seeing the hand of Divine Providence, he then proceeded to write of his desired result:

“I hope to God that when I come back here from Castile. . . I will find a barrel of gold, for which these people have traded, and that they will have found the gold mine, and the spices, and in such quantities that within three years the Sovereigns will prepare for and undertake the reconquest of the Holy Land. I have already petitioned Your Highnesses to see that all the profits of my enterprise should be spent on the conquest of Jerusalem, and Your Highnesses smiled and said that. . . even without the expedition they had the inclination to do it.”9

Now that Spain was finally free from Muslim domination (Jan. 2, 1492), the great desire to take the fight to the enemy and complete the liberation of the Holy Land could finally be completed. By sailing west, Columbus was aiming to outflank Islam, gaining access to the riches of the East so as to finance the retaking of Jerusalem. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, while Columbus was still a child, calls had come from all corners of Europe to renew the Crusade. Columbus saw himself as the instrument to fulfill the longed-for end.

In a letter to Pope Alexander VI, Columbus reiterates the seriousness of his intentions:

“The enterprise must be undertaken in order to spend any profits therein for the redemption of the Sepulcher and the Temple Mount unto Holy Church.”10

Historian George Grant succinctly concludes,

“Clearly, the motivations of Columbus were shaped by the eons long conflict between Christendom and Islam. The evidence is inescapable. He sailed, not to discover a new world, but to find a way to recover the old one.”11

Our Great Debt to Columbus

The events of 1492 and afterward could have transpired far differently. The richest nation in the world at the time was China, followed by the Islamic caliphates which stretched from Morocco to the edges of the Far East. Why didn’t the Chinese expand their empire to the east across the Pacific? Why was it not a Muslim who established lasting contact between the continents? For that matter, why was it not an Indian who discovered Europe?

Modern historians are at a loss to answer these questions, and conclude that it was simply by chance that events unfolded as they did. This hardly explains the fact that Spain was the poorest nation in Western Europe at the time, bankrupt from its completion of the Reconquista. Yet not only did Spain successfully go about colonizing and evangelizing the Americas, it also kept the Muslims out of the Americas. Had Islam spread to the Americas in place of Christianity, what we know today as the United States could very well have been the United Emirates.

Columbus believed he was specially chosen by God to bring the Gospel to a people who were living in darkness and the shadow of death. He believed his given name, Christopher, signified the mission he was destined to carry out, as his son Fernando would later explain:

“Just as Saint Christopher bore Christ over the waters, so too was he to bear the light of the Gospel over the vast oceans.”12

In conclusion, spreading the Catholic faith and acquiring riches so as to finance the retaking of Jerusalem from the Muslims were at the heart of Columbus’ mission. Any hopes of personal rewards or honors were secondary. In writing the royal treasurer of Spain at the completion of the first journey, he gives the reason all people, present and future, should celebrate what would come to be known as Columbus Day:

“And now ought the King, Queen, Princes, and all their dominions, as well as the whole of Christians, to give thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ who has granted us such a victory and great success. Let processions be ordered, let solemn festivals be celebrated, let the temples be filled with boughs and flowers. Let Christ rejoice upon earth as he does in heaven, to witness the coming salvation of so many people, heretofore given over to perdition. Let us rejoice for the exaltation of our faith, as well as for the augmentation of our temporal prosperity, in which not only Spain but all Christendom shall participate.”13

Five Myths About Christopher Columbus

1. MYTH: Columbus was sailing to prove the world was round.

FACT: Every educated person at the end of the fifteenth century knew the earth was a sphere, a fact known since antiquity. What was in dispute was the earth’s circumference, which Columbus underestimated by one-fourth.

2. MYTH: Queen Isabella sold her crown jewels to finance the first journey.

FACT: The royal treasury of Spain was depleted after the completion of the conquest of Granada early in 1492. However, Luis de Santangel, the royal treasurer, was able to secure funding by reaching out to the Crusading societies throughout the Mediterranean, as well as other financial backers from Spain and elsewhere. The crown put up very little to finance the journey.

3. MYTH: There was a priest on board the Santa Maria in 1492.

FACT: Because of the dangers involved, there were no priests or friars on the first voyage, despite the deep piety of Columbus. Many of the paintings of the first landfall in the new world on San Salvador show a priest with Columbus—contrary to the facts. There were five priests on the second voyage: Benedictine Father Buil; the Jeronymite Father Ramon Pane; and three Franciscans.

4. MYTH: Columbus introduced slavery to the New World.

FACT: Slavery was already widespread among the native Indians when Columbus arrived. Columbus was insistent on the fair treatment of the Indians, a policy which gained him many enemies as governor of Hispaniola. Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish friar who worked for the protection of the Indians, is quick to excoriate his fellow Spaniards in their grave abuses, but is filled with nothing but respect and admiration for Columbus. The mass subjugation and importation of Africans to the Americas did not begin until a generation after Columbus’ death.

5. MYTH: Columbus died a pauper, in chains, in a Spanish prison.

FACT: Despite the fact that the Spanish crown retracted some of the privileges promised to Columbus, he was relatively wealthy at the time of his death. Although he returned to Spain in chains in 1500 after his third voyage, the King and Queen apologized for the misunderstanding and had them removed.

On May 20, 1506, the Vigil of the Ascension, Christopher Columbus lay on his deathbed in his apartment at Valladolid, surrounded by his fellow Franciscans and his sons. As the friars chanted Compline, his last words echoed those of Christ on the cross: In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. (Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.)

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Christopher Columbus on his death bed

Notes:
1. Irving, Washington. A history of the life and voyages of Christopher Columbus. Paris: A. and W. Galignani, 1828. 237.
2. Grant, George. The Last Crusader. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1992. 85.
3. Columbus, Ferdinand. The life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand. 1. Madrid: 1892. 14-15.
4. Polo, Marco. The Travels of Marco Polo. Project Gutenberg, 2004. 11-14. www. gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10636/pg10636.html.
5. Marckham, Clements Robert, ed. The Journal of Christopher Columbus. London: Chas. J. Clark, 1843. 16-17.
6. Miller, Kevin A. “Why Did Columbus Sail?” Christian History. Oct 1992: 6.
7. Marckham, Clements Robert, ed. The Journal of Christopher Columbus. London: Chas. J. Clark, 1843. 37.
8. Hardon, SJ, John. “Christopher Columbus, the Catholic.” Fr. Hardon Archives. Inter Mirifica, 2003. Web. 27 Jun 2012.
9. Markham, Clements Robert, ed. The Journal of Christopher Columbus. London: Chas. J. Clark, 1843. 139.
10. Grant, George. The Last Crusader. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1992. 67.
11. Grant, George. The Last Crusader. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1992. 69-70.
12. Columbus, Ferdinand. The life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand. Vol. 1. Madrid: 1892. 6.
13. Columbus, Christopher. The first letter of Christopher Columbus to the noble lord Raphael Sanchez announcing the discovery of America. Boston: Trustees of the Boston Public Library, 1891. 16.

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11 comments on “Columbus Day

  1. May God Bless Christopher Columbus, one histories Great Heroes !!!

  2. It’s no surprise that the American secular leftists in academia, the media and in politics have tried to bury and change the name and meaning of “Columbus Day” in the last few decades. Of course It’s not because they want to acknowledge and defend the American Indians, it’s because they are anti-Catholic!! And to a lesser extent anti-Italian. Columbus is hated by the liberal elite basically because he was Catholic, and because he was spreading the Catholic faith. Not because, as these same lefties will argue, of European colonialism or bad treatment of the native peoples’ by SOME of the Spanish in the New World. It’s all about Catholicism to these people. May God Bless Christopher Columbus.

  3. A belated Happy Columbus Day.

    A current Happy Feast of Our Lady of Fatima Day!

  4. That’s anything but a Franciscan habit in the illustration, and the picture itself is a goofy-looking copy of something that wasn’t even a portrait of Columbus in the first place.

    The only portrait of Columbus that was probably made from life is the one in the Naval Museum in Madrid.
    www.grandesexploradoresbbva.com/imagenes/colon/zoom/foto_02.jpg

    One book that ought to be reprinted is the Life of Columbus by J. J. Barry, based on the French edition by Roselly de Lorgues and drawn from the research done in support of the cause for Columbus’ beatification. It makes clear, among many other things, how horrified he was to find how the Spanish colonists had been mistreating the Indians during his absence.

  5. I agree that Columbus’ cause should be put on the road of possible beatification, as should Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. But as we all know that will never happen with the current crop of leaders running the Church the last forty years. After all, Columbus, Isabella and Ferdinand did the unthinkable to the leaders of the modernist conciliar church…. they spread the traditional Catholic faith to all peoples and expelled Jews and Muslims from Spain who wouldn’t be baptized and convert. How truly unecumenical of them! However, to my knowledge the pre-conciliar Church never beatified these three either. I don”t know if that was ever considered by the Church back then or not.

    • I think in Columbus’ case the hitch was the lack of a documented miracle; his heroic virtue was never in doubt. Even in Barry’s book, the only suggested miracles were miraculous cures attributed to a cross planted by Columbus.

  6. “In Seattle, Columbus Day now ‘Indigenous People’s Day'”
    www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/07/seattle-columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day/16864049/

    The elitist liberal bigots who control that whole region (especially also Portland) could simply donate their houses to the indigenous tribe and move to Europe – but that’s as unlikely as filthy rich liberal bigot Bono (of U2) donating even one of his mansions to the poor, or Francis allowing a tent city for illegal immigrants to be set up in Vatican City (instead of ordering the police to clear them out).

    While the libs hate Columbus and also Catholics in general, they have no problem at all with the way the Aztecs slaughtered up to tens of thousands of surrounding tribesmen (ethnic cleansing) in a single day, bound and sacrificed for the Aztecs own religious ceremonies. The Aztecs, of course, weren’t white.

    • It’s amazing how the Marxists have gotten people in Hispanic countries to hate their Spanish heritage, when the Spanish influence was the single best thing to happen to the indigenous peoples in their history.

  7. Goodbye, Columbus
    Tuesday – October 14, 2014 at 12:50 am

    buchanan.org/blog/goodbye-columbus-7030

    By Patrick J. Buchanan

    In 1492, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and discovered the New World. And Oct. 12 was once a celebrated holiday in America.

    School children in the earliest grades knew the date and the names of the ships on which Columbus and his crew had sailed: the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria. They knew his voyage had been financed by Queen Isabella of Spain, after the Genoese Admiral of the Ocean Sea had been turned down by other monarchs of Europe.

    Oct. 12, 1492, was considered a momentous and wonderful day in world history: the discovery of America — by men from Europe.

    This year, Columbus Day passed almost without notice. And that Columbus Day has become an embarrassment to many and an issue of savage controversy to some reflects a receding belief in this country in the superiority of our civilization.

    Haters of Columbus say he was an imperialist, a colonialist, a genocidal racist, and a slaver who brought dictatorship, disease and death to the native peoples he encountered in the Caribbean.

    And, in truth, many explorers and conquerors like Columbus, Cortes, Magellan, Pizarro and the soldiers and sailors they led, engaged in acts we would call atrocities and war crimes.

    Yet that is true of every great empire and great civilization. The ancient Greeks had slaves. Were the Romans not brutal conquerors? Ask the Carthaginians. The Spanish, British and French empires all have their own long chronicles of crimes against colonized peoples.

    Today we say that the beheadings and crucifixions of ISIS remove them from the company of civilized men. They should be annihilated to the last man, we hear on cable TV.

    But the Romans beheaded St. Paul and crucified Christ. Queen Elizabeth beheaded her cousin Queen Mary, even as her mother Anne Boleyn had been beheaded by her father Henry VIII, who also decapitated Sir Thomas More.

    The French Revolution Jefferson loved used at its instrument of justice the guillotine, to which Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette were sent. Those heroes of the Revolution, Danton and Robespierre, were guillotined, as was Charlotte Corday, four days after she stabbed to death in a bathtub a third great man of the revolution, Marat.

    Great men are rarely good men, and every great empire is guilty of great crimes. But the empires men still study and admire are those that created, built and advanced civilization, that brought mankind to a higher plateau, that left behind magnificent legacies.

    And here we approach a deep-seated reason for the hatred of Columbus.

    He was a colonialist and an imperialist. He believed in the superiority of his Catholic faith and European tribe. He believed that what we call the West should rule, because its faith, of which God Himself had been the founder, and its culture and civilization, which excelled all others in arms, inventions, literature, governance and the arts, were superior.

    Christopher Columbus was a Christian European supremacist.

    When he landed in the Caribbean islands and found peoples there with no alphabet, who had not yet invented the wheel, Columbus did not think them equal. The only reason he would believe they had intrinsic worth as fellow children of God would be from the teachings of his faith.

    Right up to our own time, Western men believed with Columbus that their Christian faith and their civilization were superior. Today, Columbus is denounced and rejected because he acted in his belief that the indigenous peoples he encountered should be converted and ruled by Europeans. Columbus rejected the idea of equality.

    Yet how far from his view were Washington, Jefferson, Madison and James Monroe, slaveholders all. How far from Columbus’ view was Andrew Jackson? Was Jackson’s treatment of African-Americans and the indigenous peoples of Florida so different from that of Columbus?

    Gen. Philip Sheridan, to whom Sherman gave command of the West, volunteered, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” His troopers often acted upon that belief.

    The Spanish Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, the United States all rose to power and greatness, motivated by a belief in the superiority of their race, tribe, religion, culture and country. All believed their innate superiority conferred upon them a right to rule what Kipling called “the lesser breeds without the law.”

    How else, these men would ask us, does civilization progress, if not through the imposition by superior men of superior ideas? What great nation, what great empire, what great civilization ever rose on a belief in the equality of all other peoples and all other faiths?

    The United States, among the largest countries on earth, from sea to shining sea was carved out of lands seized from native peoples by Spanish, British, French, and Russian conquerors first, then taken by us.

    We are the heirs of marauders, pirates, conquerors, colonizers, colonialists, and imperialists. And such knowledge is why so many have guilty consciences and seek to salve them by repudiating Columbus.

    As they say in Seattle, Happy Indigenous People’s Day.

  8. COLUMBUS NOSTER EST

    rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2009/10/columbus-noster-est.html

    Posted by New Catholic.

    Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God’s guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author. Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.

    By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life.

    Europe, indeed, overpowered at the time by the novelty and strangeness of the discovery, presently came to recognize what was due to Columbus, when, through the numerous colonies shipped to America, through the constant intercourse and interchange of business and the ocean-trade, an incredible addition was made to our knowledge of nature, and to the commonwealth; whilst at the same time the prestige of the European name was marvellously increased.

    Therefore, amidst so lavish a display of honour, so unanimous a tribute of congratulations, it is fitting that the Church should not be altogether silent; since she, by custom and precedent, willingly approves and endeavours to forward whatsoever she see, and wherever she see it, that is honourable and praiseworthy. It is true she reserves her special and greatest honours for virtues that most signally proclaim a high morality, for these are directly associated with the salvation of souls; but she does not, therefore, despise or lightly estimate virtues of other kinds. On the contrary, she has ever highly favoured and held in honour those who have deserved well of men in civil society, and have thus attained a lasting name among posterity.

    For God, indeed, is especially wonderful in his Saints – mirabilis in Sanctis suis; but the impress of His Divine virtue also appears in those who shine with excellent power of mind and spirit, since high intellect and greatness of spirit can be the property of men only through their parent and creator, God.

    But there is, besides, another reason, a unique one, why We consider that this immortal achievement should be recalled by Us with memorial words. For Columbus is ours; since if a little consideration be given to the particular reason of his design in exploring the mare tenebrosum, and also the manner in which he endeavoured to execute the design, it is indubitable that the Catholic faith was the strongest motive for the inception and prosecution of the design; so that for this reason also the whole human race owes not a little to the Church.

    We say not that he was unmoved by perfectly honourable aspirations after knowledge, and deserving well of human society; nor did he despise glory, which is a most engrossing ideal to great souls; nor did he altogether scorn a hope of advantages to himself; but to him far before all these human considerations was the consideration of his ancient faith, which questionless dowered him with strength of mind and will, and often strengthened and consoled him in the midst of the greatest difficulties. This view and aim is known to have possessed his mind above all; namely, to open a way for the Gospel over new lands and seas.

    [I]n his mind, he sought first of all to extend the Christian name and the benefits of Christian charity to the West, as is abundantly proved by the history of the whole undertaking. For when he first petitioned Ferdinand and Isabella, the Sovereigns of Spain, for fear lest they should be reluctant to encourage the undertaking, he clearly explained its object: “That their glory would grow to immortality, if they resolved to carry the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ into regions so distant.” And in no long time having obtained his desires, he bears witness: “That he implores of God that, through His Divine aid and grace, the Sovereigns may continue steadfast in their desire to fill these new missionary shores with the truths of the Gospel.”

    He hastens to seek missionaries from Pope Alexander VI, through a letter in which this sentence occurs: “I trust that, by God’s help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as may be.” He was carried away, as we think, with joy, when on his first return from the Indies he wrote to Raphael Sanchez: “That to God should be rendered immortal thanks, Who had brought his labours such prosperous issues; that Jesus Christ rejoices and triumphs on earth no less than in Heaven, at the approaching salvation of nations innumerable, who were before hastening to destruction.” And if he moved Ferdinand and Isabella to decree that only Catholic Christians should be suffered to approach the New World and trade with the natives, he brought forward as reason, “that he sought nothing from his enterprise and endeavour but the increase and glory of the Christian religion.” And this was well known to Isabella, … [f]or she had declared of Columbus that he would boldly thrust himself upon the vast ocean, “to achieve a most signal thing, for the sake of the Divine glory.” And to Columbus himself, on his second return, she writes: “That the expenses she had incurred, and was about to incur, for the Indian expeditions, had been well bestowed; for thence would ensure a spreading of Catholicism.”
    Leo XIII
    Quarto abeunte sæculo
    July 16, 1892

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